The West

With projects ranging from mining iron ore in the Mid-West to building airport infrastructure and developing urban residential sites, the $34.7 million contractor Brierty is reasonably diverse for its size.

But until now, the 31-year-old company founded by Alan and Kylie Brierty has restricted its activities to WA and the NT.

That may change drastically if managing director Peter McBain chooses to follow the path bigger rivals have taken into Africa.

"It's not something we would rush into," Mr McBain said. "It would be a big step for Brierty. But we do understand that in growing the company that we will need to diversify our risk." Mr McBain has reason to be cautious. Brierty has travelled a rocky road since closing at $1.72 a share on its first day of trading in late 2007. Brierty recorded a $1.3 million loss that financial year and the share price slumped.

The company has had a stuttering performance since, with 2011-12's $9.4 million profit its best result since listing. The lightly traded, tightly held - the Briertys still hold a 40 per cent stake - stock remains low at Friday's 31.5¢ close.

"Some of that goes back to our history," Mr McBain, who took charge in early 2011, said. After two good halves and a third expected, he was hopeful the "undervalued" shares would pick up.

Mr McBain said miners were showing signs of getting back to business since reviewing expansion plans. At Gindalbie Metals and AnSteel's Karara iron ore project, Brierty has been mining hematite for the past 18 months in a $185 million four-year contract. There's potential for follow-up work.

Mr McBain, a former Karara executive, would like to see mining's share of the contractor's revenue from 20 per cent to 35-40 per cent. With capability for three mining jobs at a time, Brierty is confident of a gold project win by December and is bidding for another iron ore project. Mr McBain said while underused machinery was costing about $150,000 a month, Brierty needed to show potential clients it had the gear to take on new contracts.

What he doesn't necessarily want more of is deals like Darwin's $130 million Bellamack residential development. Aside from the $44 million civil contract, Brierty in 2009 became the sole developer after a partner withdrew.

"We wouldn't want to end up in a situation where we had as much money invested in the actual development as we did at Bellamack, preventing us from really putting our dollars into machines."

The end is in sight for Brierty at Bellamack.

About 600 of the 682 lots have been sold and sales are expected to be completed by mid-2013.

"We wouldn't want to bring that sort of pressure back to the balance sheet, having freed ourselves from it." More to Brierty's liking is a project to house Rio Tinto workers in the Pilbara town of Wickham.

Mr McBain is hopeful the $55 million earthworks it's doing for the South Wickham subdivision in a joint venture with indigenous contractor NYFL will soon lead to further work at the site.

The reporter travelled to Karara and Wickham courtesy of Brierty.

The West Australian

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